Wednesday, November 30, 2011

T. A.'s Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl Tennis

Steve Sheer gives T A Championship Cup in '08
So I crossed “The Alley” for a Turkey Day tourney this past weekend. Off to Boca the day before Thanksgiving for the 26th Annual Turkey Bowl, an event in which I won the Men’s 45s back in ’08 when I was playing a little. In ’08, I came to play tennis, was the No.1 Seed, and played three matches, losing just five games total!

This time around, I waffled right up to the last minute about whether or not I should play, went for personal enhancement first, tennis second, and had to play a full 32-draw’s worth 
Steve Sheer mans Turkey Bowl tourney desk in '11

of matches! I looked at the draw and thought, “You cannot be SERIOUS!” Can you believe I played dubs with one of the tournament's co-directors? Thanks guys!
Beach preparation
 I mean, really. I had just played Oliver at Park Meadow the day before I left for Boca, and had barely lasted two sets. How was I going to play two matches a day in a competitive environment? Let’s just say I was so confident that I didn’t pack enough outfits for five matches. And, you wanna know how I prepared? Spent Thanksgiving on the beach in Delray jumping waves with a little guy who makes the Eveready Bunny look slothful (uh, that’s lazy Oli- wink). Late dinner, late night, no problem. Match wasn’t till 10am the next day anyway…
John Soderberg & T A

No.4 Seed Scott Wolff
The first match, I felt good and my opponent wasn’t nearly as strong as the guys (Oliver, Fernando, Parker, David) who helped me get as ready as I could. A nice
easy 1, 2 match. Just what the tennis doc ordered. Next up was the No.4 Seed, Scott Wolff, who had the best forehand dropshot I’ve ever faced, and pretty sound strategy. Scott (who won the consolation draw) had me a little concerned, but I pulled that one out 3, 4. Phew! Winning two main-draw matches in one day? Hadn’t done that successfully in about two decades or so.

No.6 Seed David Burns
 Up next was No.6 seed, David Burns, a really nice guy from Colorado, whom I had played in the final back in ’08, and who hadn’t yet acclimated to the dirt we play on down here. Worked for me; that one went 2, 4. Good thing I was able to close that thing out before David acclimated to the clay and heavy air.

Ok, so after three matches in less than 36 hours, I’m supposed to play the No.2 Seed, Jimmy Gatza, who is tentatively ranked No.7 in USTA Florida’s Men’s 45s? Riiiiiight! Did I mention that I am an old guy who hasn’t played a ton of tennis over the past couple years? In any event, I hung in the first set despite being as emotionally flat as the proverbial pancake, but went down 3-6.

Ok, gotta regroup here. One point at a time and all that jazz, right? Well Whadda ya know, I get an early break, and after a few tough games I find myself up a couple breaks, and Jimmy’s conserving energy for the third. I claim the second set 6-1.

The third set proceeds as though neither of us wants the thing, or we both want it too much. It develops into a back-and-forth affair with many game points and break points earned and squandered. Just about 5pm I asked for the lights to be turned on, and I wasn’t liking my chances. Night tennis to me is like drinking castor oil on the rocks, with a sauerkraut smoothie chaser.

Ah, but perhaps it was the inspiration on the sidelines, or maybe it was because Jimmy had played a three-setter earlier in the day, or…whatever the reasons, I made it through that match and into the final with a 7-5 third set. Sheesh! Can’t remember the last time I had one of those types of battles.

It’s Saturday night and I’m feeling pretty good about myself, despite a shoulder that’s saying, “DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!” Good food, good rub down with pain-relieving ointment, decent night’s sleep, heck I just might be able to pull this off!

Ervin Mendel- Men's 45 Champion
Uh, right. Up next was Ervin Mendel of Hollywood, Florida, who is tentatively ranked No.4 in USTA Florida’s Men’s 45s. I had played Ervin twice before, losing to him in the final of the State Closed Championship in ’07, 7-5 in the third; and beating him 6-2 in the third in the semis of an event in ’08. Ervin had been in three finals in the four events he had played this year, and had reached the Round of 16 at the National Clay Courts in April.

T A all done
 In other words, I know Ervin has game and I would need to bring some game to win the thing. Interestingly enough, I felt pretty good physically, but made far too many mental errors against a quality opponent to win. Bottom line is that Ervin made the shots he had to make to win and I didn’t. Ervin might beg to differ, but I think the 6-3, 6-2 score was a bit deceiving. It felt tougher than that to me. Sure hope it felt that way to him.

Tam Neal of AbsoluTBalance works on T A
 On the tennis record that match goes down as a loss, but on the life record, this Thanksgiving weekend was a major win! Thanks Steve, Keith for hosting an awesome event yet again! Thanks Tam for working out the kinks and getting this old bod ready to play. Thanks to my two adventure companions, and to Oliver, Fernando, Parker & Dave for reminding me what it’s like to play singles again. And you know I have to save the best for last: Thank you for sharing in the moments with me! Game, set, match….T A

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